Flood hazards regulations tweaked before hearing

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MANCHESTER >> The town's planning commission has made two changes in the proposed regulations it is sending along to the select board for possible approval during their next regular meeting Tuesday, Nov. 10.

The initial regulations, being revised in order to allow town residents to qualify for flood hazard insurance under the Federal emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, guidelines, prohibited new development in the entire flood hazard area. However, that has been changed to prohibit new development within a smaller area known as the "floodway." The new FEMA guidelines are scheduled to go into effect on Dec. 1.

According to FEMA, a "Regulatory Floodway" means the channel of a river or other watercourse and the adjacent land areas that must be reserved in order to discharge the base flood without cumulatively increasing the water surface elevation more than a designated height. Communities must regulate development in these floodways to ensure that there are no increases in upstream flood elevations. A "flood hazard" area covers a wider amount of territory. According to FEMA's website, the technical definition of a flood hazard area is one that will be inundated by the flood event having a 1-percent chance of being equaled or exceeded in any given year.

Those interested to learn if their properties lie within the floodway or the broader flood hazard zone can check the flood ready atlas on the state's Agency of Natural Resources website, Zoning Administrator Janet Hurley said.

The planning commission had approved language prohibiting new development within the entire flood hazard area when it met last month and voted to send the new rules along to the Select Board for final approval. But Hurley felt some of the proposed guidelines they received were inconsistent, did further checking, and learned that construction of new primary structures, either residential or commercial, would only be disallowed under FEMA's guidelines in the designated floodway.

The second change is that new construction outside of the floodway will be considered a conditional use, meaning that it is allowable as long as certain conditions are met.

Hurley checked with the town's legal counsel to see if the two changes warranted a re-warning of the planning commission's hearing on the new flood hazard regulations, but was told that wasn't necessary.

That is an important factor, because the new updated regulations need to be in place by Dec. 1 in order for town to avoid suspension from the National Flood Insurance Program.

The select board will be holding its hearing Tuesday, Nov. 10, at the town hall. The meeting starts at 7 p.m.


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